The UK’s largest coffee shop chain has pledged to recycle as many disposable cups as it sells by 2020 in an effort to cut the number sent to landfill.
Costa Coffee said it will recycle up to 500 million disposable coffee cups a year, including those from other retailers to match the number it hands out, and has urged other chains to do the same.
However, Costa said it was a “misconception” that the problem with recycling cups was because their plastic lining was difficult to separate from the cardboard, and was instead to do with their collection once customers had thrown them into recycling bins.
Costa said it will pay waste collectors a supplement of £70 per tonne of cups they send to recycling plants, increasing the value of a bale by 150% to £125, making it commercially attractive for them to put in place the infrastructure to collect, sort and transport the cups to specialist facilities.
There are currently three UK paper mills that can recycle the cups – James Cropper, ACE UK and DS Smith – and Costa said they had a combined capacity to process more than 4.5 billion every year.
Costa will pay another £5 per tonne to independent third party Valpak, which will audit the system and report on recycling rates.
The chain, which has 2,380 shops in the UK, has developed the plan in partnership with five national waste collectors – Veolia, Biffa, Suez, Grundon and First Mile.
It said the recycling move would work alongside its efforts to encourage customers to use reusable cups, including a 25p discount for those who bring their own mugs.
It would also continue to work with cup manufacturers to minimise and eventually eliminate plastic in takeaway cups.
Costa managing director Dominic Paul said: “By creating a market for cups as a valuable recyclable material, we are confident that we can transform the UK’s ineffective and inconsistent ‘binfrastructure’ to ensure hundreds of millions of cups get recycled every year.
“One hundred million cups will be recycled this year alone following today’s announcement, and if the nation’s other coffee chains sign up, there is no reason why all takeaway cups could not be recycled by as early as 2020.
“At Costa we want to guarantee our customers that if they throw their cup into a recycling bin it will get recycled, and today’s announcement is a major step towards that happening.”
Grundon’s sales and marketing director Bradley Smith said: “Costa are helping to create the right conditions where paper cups can become a valuable recycled material.
“This provides increased stability and confidence in the market, which will help waste management companies like Grundon to extend paper cup recycling services to more customers.”
Suez chief executive David Palmer-Jones said: “Suez has long backed the concept of extended producer responsibility and we truly believe that producer contribution schemes have the potential to transform the long-term sustainability outlook for the UK – moving us all closer to achieving a circular economy, where materials are used and reused over and over again.”
Last month ministers were accused of inaction over litter after the Government failed to give its backing to calls for a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups.
The 25p charge was the standout recommendation from a cross-party committee of MPs, who said cash raised could pay for improved recycling facilities.